Maats Travels: The Alps Trip
Organizing events has been part of the Maats DNA since day 1. We started Maats out of our love for cycling and having adventures and creating inspiring stories. That's why we are always on the lookout for special locations to organize cycling trips. When Maats friend from the first hour Simon Rosmolen invited us for a fully catered five-day stay in the French Alps, we didn't have to give it a second thought. We invited ten of our best customers to France, and off we went on an unforgettable trip. Please find an impression of our experience below.
In addition to the perfect location in the epicenter of the French Alps and the great facilities of Hotel Saint Roch, we had two very good reasons to travel to Puy-Saint-Vincent: Anne and Simon. This couple, whom we know from back in the early Maats days when they still lived in Amsterdam, moved to the Alps a few years ago. Anne works as the hotel's chef de cuisine and Simon (in addition to his work for Komoot) as activation manager. They promised that during our stay, Anne will provide us a delicious three-course dinner every single evening. Simon created and explored our routes and ensured that we had everything we could wish for during our days in the Alps.
Stage 1: Col d'Izoard and Col Agnel
On the first day, the iconic Col d'Izoard was on the menu. We rode as a group to Briançon, where after about twenty kilometers we arrived at the bottom of the climb. The Izoard has a length of almost 20 km and a gradient of just over 6 percent, with its top at over 2300m altitude. As is often the case with longer climbs, the group quickly fell apart. Riders found their own pace and rode alone or in smaller groups. The first part of the climb was easy, but the last 7 km turned out steeper and more challenging. This segment was between trees, and here the road consisted of many hairpins. The view at the top was stunning and riders got some refreshments. When the group was complete again, the descent started.
After a long descent to the village of Les Moulins, we arrived in the valley after approximately 100 km. Here all riders had the choice to turn left and climb the Col Agnel (20 km at 6.6%) or to skip it and ride back through the valley towards the hotel. Half of the group opted for the extra climb, the rest took it easier and rode through the rolling valley back towards Puy-Saint-Vincent and called it a day.
Stage 2: Le Trois Vallées
After the long first stage, day two consisted of a shorter ride in distance: a route of 80 km with more than 2300 meters of altitude. During the ride briefing the night before, Simon had already indicated that you should not be misled by the relatively small distance, and that this would be a beautiful but challenging route. The route consisted of four climbs from the same valley. After each descent, the riders returned to the town of Vallouise, where the next climb immediately started.
The first climb of the day was the climb to Ailefroide. A beautiful climb, many hairpins through the forest, ending at a réfuge (a place where you can find shelter in the mountains), where we had a coffee before descending back to Vallouise. Immediately after the descent the next climb started, a challenging 7km at 7% to Chambran. The climb was on the middle of the day and fully in the sun, so most jerseys quickly were opened. It was not an easy climb, with parts above a staggering 15%. What awaited us at the top of the climb was all worth it: Anne and Simon prepared a well-deserved lunch from our own Maats Sprinter. Life wasn't going to get much better! A prefect moment to get off the bike and refuel for the rest of the day.
The long lunch stop turned out challenging for some riders. And, in addition to that, the long ride of the day before started to take its toll on some of us. A part of the group therefore decided to ride back to the hotel after the lunch descent. The rest of the group finished the route with one last climb of the day, which was probably the hardest of all three.
Stage 3: Col de Vars & Col de Pontis
Day three would be another longer day; we didn't start this stage from the hotel, but drove 20 minutes by car to the town of Les Iclasses. The Maats Sprinter transported the bikes. Right from the start, we almost immediately hit the longest climb of the day: Col de Vars: not the steepest climb (5.9%), but almost 20 kilometers long. Some riders experienced difficulties climbing this long climb 'cold', others found their climbing legs on the way up.
The Col de Vars can be divided into two parts: the first 9 km and the last 9 km of the climb. Inbetween there's a kilometer of descending to the wintersports village of Vars. The last three kilometers are slightly steeper and the view at the top is fantastic. All in all, the Col the Vars was a good climb that is not super steep and where you can get into a good rhythm.
After the top of the Col de Vars, we were treated to a descent of no less than 60 km. The first kilometers of the descent were steep, but later the road sloped downwards and it was quite easy to descend through the valley as a group at a good speed. After a short stop for coffee and crepes in Barcelonette, we arrived at the foot of the steep Col de Pontis at 80km. This col is a arduous 5.3 km at 9.6%, so part of the group decided to ride up here, the other half chose for the route alongside the lake, which certainly did not disappoint. After regrouping at a bakery in Savines-le-Lac we, crossed the lake for the last hilly 45 kilometers back to the starting point.
Stage 4: Col du Granon
Save the best for last, they said. Our final stage involved the mythical Col du Granon. Until not long ago, only the locals knew this climb, but when Vingegaard destroyed Poggi here in the Tour of '22, it gained international glory. Col du Granon is a brutal climb of 9 km at 9%, however comes with amazing views. First, we had a relatively easy ride of about forty kilometers to the foot of the climb. A false-flat kilometer through the village of Saint Chaffrey brings you to the start of the climb. From then on, it is only steep up, extremely steep up. The climb leaves you nowhere to recover. There are no places to rest or get into your rhythm. You have no choice and have to work hard all the way to reach the top - especially if you want to keep your 'opponents' behind you on this climb.
Already in the first meters of the climb, riders found their own pace and everyone ended up riding alone. The ratios on the climb quickly became clear and were basically the same as they had been all week. Although it was a tough climb, it was also dazzlingly beautiful. Good road surface, hardly any traffic and a lot of climbing in pure serenity.
Everyone arrived exhausted on the top of the climb, where another delicious summit lunch was waiting for us. To be able to do this in this place, with this view, was an unparalleled experience - especially considering the fact that there is nothing on the summit to get a drink or something to eat. We had an amazing lunch with view. War stories were shared and Strava segments and power files compared. After the lunch, we decended back to Saint Chaffrey. We stopped in Briançon on our way back to get a well-deserved ice cream and started the climb back to Puy-Saint-Vincent for the last time this trip.
Upon returning to the hotel, everyone realized that the trip was almost over. During the closing dinner, potential next locations for Maats Travels were discussed. In the period after a Maats trip, we always receive many questions and requests about participation in future trips. We organize these kinds of events for our best en most loyal customers and friends of Maats. The primary objective for us is to invest in customer relationships, create content and, above all, have fun. There is no commercial revenue model in this type of events, but we do it mainly because we love it and see it as a short holiday trip with friends whom we all know from Maats.
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We are convinced that there was no better place to stay for this trip than at Hotel Saint Roch in Puy-Saint-Vincent. To be honest, it's not an easy place to get to, especially on the bike, but once you get there, it totally makes up for it. The hotel is open two seasons a year: in the winter season (December-April) and the summer season (June-September). In addition to 18 rooms, the hotel also has a luxurious chalet for up to twelve people. Maats stayed in this chalet during this trip. This was only a few steps away from the hotel, where we could use all the facilities. We also had breakfast and dinner at the hotel. Are you looking for the perfect place in the French Alps as a base for your adventures on the bike or on the slopes? Then this is the place to go. Thank us later.